It was 3 a.m. on a Monday morning. The Caspi family were en route to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv on their way home from their daughter’s wedding. It had been a wonderful chasuna and they were all tired but very happy. Mr. Caspi took one car with the young couple to their new home after collecting their gifts and piling them into the car. Karen Caspi, the kallah’s mother, was driving the other car with the rest of the family’s children. They shouldn’t have had to be so late on the road, but the Israeli custom of settling up payment only at the end of the simcha meant that things always dragged on longer than you had anticipated.
Suddenly, Karen saw what seemed to be a traffic holdup. She slowed down, surprised that there was a problem at the army checkpoint as they approached Jerusalem. Such holdups weren’t unusual during normal, daily rush hour traffic, but were rare at this time of night. For a few minutes Karen sat there quietly in the line of cars, assuming the delay would be short-lived. But as the minutes went by and nothing seemed to be moving, she suddenly, for no apparent reason, turned to her family and said she was going to get out and see what was happening. She said she had a feeling maybe she could help.
She climbed out of the car still in her long mother-of-the-bride dress and walked over to the front of the line of cars. Some soldiers waved her away. “Get back in your car. We’re waiting for an ambulance and then we’ll let you all go.”
“I’m a nurse. Maybe I can help,” Karen told them. “Why didn’t you say so? Quick, come over here! She’s had a baby in the front car.”
“I’m a midwife, too,” added Karen. “Great. Perfect,” the soldiers said.
Karen picked up the hem of her dress and ran over to the car. She quickly summed up the situation. The soldiers milling around were silent, staring into the distance as if willing the ambulance to arrive faster. They were all looking scared. The father was moaning with his eyes closed and was holding onto a pillar to stop himself from fainting, while the mother lay in the back of the car with the newborn on her stomach. The silent baby looked a very unhealthy color and wasn’t breathing. The mother thankfully seemed unaware that there was a problem as she lay there with her eyes closed holding onto her baby.
Karen quickly realized that the baby was probably suffering from meconium aspiration. This is when the meconium, a thick substance which is usually secreted in the baby’s bowel movements after birth, gets sucked into the baby’s lungs and can stop the baby from breathing. When this happens, the meconium has to be quickly suctioned out of the baby’s lungs to enable them to inflate and the baby to breathe – but of course, Karen had no equipment with her.
She clambered into the back of the car, stuffing her long dress behind her, and took the baby onto her lap. Pushing her long sheitel out of her eyes and face, she immediately started manually suctioning the meconium out of the baby’s mouth. The soldiers looked on in a mixture of horror, hope, and relief, knowing that someone knew what the problem was and was dealing with it.
After a few interminable seconds (or was it minutes?), there was a cry from the baby, his face changed color, and his chest started to move up and down. But Karen didn’t stop until she was sure it was all out and the ambulance crew arrived to take over. She stumbled out of the car to a welcome of cheers and tears by those who had witnessed this early morning miracle.
As a young couple were starting their new life together, this newborn would now, b’chasdei Hashem, be starting his life.